By: Bryan Thiel
This past weekend saw the dreams of 211 young men come to fruition at the 2016 NHL Draft. Among those 211 players, 48 were selected from the OHL, including nine in the first round.
The 48 players is tied for the most OHL’ers selected in a draft since 1999. Along with that, for just the second time since 1989 three players were selected from one OHL team in the first round (And it actually happened twice on Friday with the Windsor Spitfires and London Knights).
When it comes to those 48 players from the OHL and the 211 members of the draft class, they’re all winners. At the end of the day, they all took a step towards the ultimate goal of playing in the NHL and you can never take that away from them. But, just for fun, here are five players that came away with a little something more from draft weekend.
All year long it seemed liked the story in Kitchener was how Adam Mascherin wasn’t getting any recognition when it came to the NHL Draft. Never a real favourite in the rankings, a 35-goal/46-assist season couldn’t even help Mascherin crack the first round. While he may never have had the allure of a Matt McLeod or Logan Stanley (both first rounders), Mascherin continued to produce all season long, finishing with more points than the two who were picked in the top-twelve. While it doesn’t have the appeal of being a first round pick, Mascherin still ends up being a top-40 selection, and now finds himself in a quickly-improving NHL program. That, combined with the fire to prove the doubters wrong, may end up making him a great value pick.
In a strange twist, two players who did everything they could to prove they were first round picks ended up going back-to-back in the second round. For Alex DeBrincat (and Mascherin as well), size was definitely a factor at a listed 5’7″. Last year DeBrincat scored 51-goals and had to hear about how it was all thanks to Connor McDavid. This year he scored 51 again (alongside Dylan Strome), proving that he was a talented and feisty goal-scorer. Unfortunately it seems that the doubt about small players will always persist, but DeBrincat may have the last laugh as he ends up going to the NHL’s modern-day dynasty in Chicago. The Blackhawks landed him with a rare (for them) early-second round pick, and with their willingness to turn over the bottom half of their roster, DeBrincat’s chance to prove people wrong may come sooner rather than later.
Parsons wrapped up a spectacular season on Saturday when his name was called by the Calgary Flames. Being the second goalie off the board should justify just how good he was in 2015/16. The playoff leader in goals-against average and save percentage was overshadowed by the big names doing the scoring for the Knights this year, but without him it’s hard to see London running the table the way they did from round two on. Parsons gets some acknowledgement of that by going 54th overall, and may have a better shot at the NHL than in other markets. 31-year old Brian Elliott is the guy at the NHL level, and the Flames will soon be turning to their system in hopes a young goalie steps up . He also becomes the first Knights’ goalie selected in the draft since Steve Mason (3rd round) in 2006.
For the players in Flint, this year wasn’t easy. The first year in a new city is always expected to have a few bumps, but this was taking it to new levels. Lost among all the turmoil, was the concern over what the events may have done to the draft stock and overall view of the players on the roster. For Bitten, he survived while facing the adversity and led the team in scoring with 30-goals and 65-points. With a more talented roster (and less turmoil), who knows if Bitten would have been drafted higher, but the story still has a happy ending; Bitten grew up as a fan of Montreal, and now gets to wear their fabled sweater after the most trying season of his life.
For Day, the last week has been very good to him. Early on in the week it was announced that he was among the 42 players selected to take part in USA Hockey’s National Junior Evaluation Camp, and on Saturday he saw a very long (and curious) road through the OHL culminate in becoming a third round pick. When he was granted exceptional player status in 2013, expectations were high for him and everyone thought he’d be a lock to be drafted in the first round. Unfortunately for Day he struggled early on, faced a lot of negative criticism, and things seemed to snowball from there for a 15-year old facing a bright spotlight. Now, it doesn’t matter: He’s an NHL draft pick with an opportunity to change the narrative surrounding him. It’s as close to a fresh start as you can get, and it could be just what Sean Day needs.
Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.